Lucy Flores received death threats in 2013 after she testified in an Assembly committee hearing that she had an abortion at the age of 16.
At the time, Nevada lawmakers were considering a sex education bill. Then-Assemblywoman Flores made the choice to tell her story to highlight the importance of educating children so they can avoid situations like hers. Her account made national headlines.
By then, EMILY’s List, a political action committee that supports pro-abortion rights Democratic women running for office, had endorsed her twice, once in 2010 and again in 2012. The national group endorsed her a third time in 2014, when Flores ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor. Republican Mark Hutchison won that race.
But after all these endorsements, and three years after she spoke up in Carson City, Flores isn’t getting an endorsement from EMILY’s List as she seeks the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District race. Instead, EMILY’s List has endorsed philanthropist Susie Lee, another Democratic contender.
The move leaves Flores’ campaign and her supporters questioning why the group passed over a former state assemblywoman who has shared the details of her choice.
The group’s decision centered around money, according to an email from Lucinda Guinn, vice president of campaigns for EMILY’s List.
“Susie is clearly the strongest candidate in this race — she currently has over half a million dollars more in her campaign account than Lucy, who hasn’t built an operation capable of communicating with voters this time around,” Guinn wrote in a March 10 email to a Flores supporter. The Review-Journal obtained a copy of the email.
Guinn described the decision as an “exhaustive process.”
“EMILY’s List stayed out and worked with both Susie and Lucy for as long as we could, but with two strong male contenders in the race, we were all risking losing an opportunity to add a pro-choice woman to Congress by sitting on our hands,” she said in the email.
At the time, Democrats in the race included state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and John Oceguera, a former Nevada Assembly speaker. Oceguera dropped out six days after the email was sent. EMILY’s’s List doesn’t endorse men.
The Democrats facing off in the June 14 primaries hope to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, who seeks a second two-year term in the district that includes North Las Vegas and six rural counties.
“I was more than just disappointed,” Flores said. “I was hurt.”
Flores had endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders before EMILY’s List passed her over in favor of Lee. EMILY’s List is supporting Hillary Clinton. Flores said those circumstances “cast another shade of suspicion over their motive.”
Jess McIntosh, vice president of communications for EMILY’s LIST, said: “EMILY’s List has a clear pattern of supporting candidates who fight for women and have a real path to victory.”
McIntosh pointed to candidates the group is supporting in 2016 despite being outspent by Democratic primary opponents. The list includes Donna Edwards, a Maryland congresswoman running for U.S. Senate, and congressional candidates in Maryland, Florida and California.
In those cases, unlike Nevada’s 4th District race, the endorsed candidates are being outspent by male Democrats.
The group also has endorsed Sanders supporters, including Pramila Jayapal, a congressional candidate in Washington state, and Sue Minter, a gubernatorial candidate in Vermont, she said.
The email, Flores said, is clear.
“For them to just blatantly admit that the primary and, frankly, the only reason that they sided was because of money — it’s almost unfathomable especially given their name and their mission and their stated purpose,” Flores said.
MONEY IN POLITICS
The endorsement choice by EMILY’s List cropped up at a 4th District Democratic debate forum last week in North Las Vegas. Flores questioned the organization’s move, pointing to her own history and the EMILY’s List correspondence that focused on money.
Out of all the Democratic candidates, Lee has raised the most money: $1.1 million. Of that figure, $222,148 comes from her directly, most of it as loans to her campaign, Federal Election Commission data shows. That includes $22,148 of in-kind contributions from Lee to her campaign for travel, cellphone service and office supplies and furniture. EMILY’s List has given Lee $5,000.
Lee reported $642,333 cash on hand at the close of the quarter ending March 31. Flores reported $158,910 cash on hand, and $375,542 in contributions.
Kihuen reported $423,983 cash on hand at the end of March and $713,391 in contributions.
So far this election cycle, EMILY’s List has given $5,000 to Clinton’s campaign, $133,059 to congressional campaigns nationwide, and $44,000 to U.S. Senate races, according to nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics data.
“Another issue that it very much highlights is this idea of money in politics and how perverted the system is in response to the influence that money has on our democracy,” Flores said, adding that the correspondence from EMILY’s List never mentioned where candidates stood on issues.
Guinn’s email also defended EMILY’s List’s record of supporting women of color. Flores is Hispanic; Lee is not.
“While we all agree that we have a lot more work to do, we are proud that almost one-third of the candidates EMILY’s List has helped elect to Congress have been women of color — including every single Latina, African American, and Asian American Democratic Congresswoman currently serving,” Guinn wrote.
She added that in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race, the group backs Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who would be the first Latina elected in the Senate.
In a statement, Lee Campaign Manager Jonathan Pattillo said Lee got the support of EMILY’s List because of her record in helping families in the district, adding that she’s the strongest candidate to defeat Hardy.
“Her deep experience helping others in her community for over twenty years and ability to put together a strong campaign with the resources needed to win has earned her national recognition and broad support across Nevada’s 4th District,” he said.
Contact Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.